Return to School - COVID-19 Testing

The FCPS screening testing program provides division-wide COVID-19 testing of students and staff

The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) COVID-19 screening testing program provides testing to students and staff. For students, parental consent is required.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends school-based testing to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to keep school open safely. Screening testing is used to identify unvaccinated people with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic and do not have known, suspected, or reported exposure to COVID-19.

Required Testing For Student-Athletes

Weekly COVID-19 screening testing is required for all active Virginia High School League (VHSL) student-athletes, including ages 12-15 who are not fully vaccinated and ages 16 and older who have medical or religious exemptions. Parent/guardian consent is required. Testing for student-athletes begins November 15.

A student is considered fully vaccinated if two weeks have passed since their second Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 shot or after the J&J one dose vaccine. A student is eligible for try-outs if they have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Testing details include: 

  • Who is Tested- Student-athletes who are not fully vaccinated are required to have a weekly negative COVID-19 test.The CDC does not recommend including vaccinated students or staff as part of layered prevention strategies. However, fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts should be tested 5-7 days after exposure.
  • Confidentiality- Test results will be kept confidential and made available to parents and guardians. Student-athlete test results will be provided to the Director of Student Activities and other designated FCPS personnel if parent/guardian consent is provided for the disclosure.
  • Vendor- Student-athlete testing is provided by Aegis Sciences Corporation, a partner in the Virginia Department of Health’s VIssTA program.
  • Location and Time- Testing takes place at all traditional high school sites (after school to the maximum extent possible). Students will report to the designated testing location during the day and timeframe established for their school. The whole testing process should take no more than 2-3 minutes per student.
  • Test Type- Student-athletes will receive PCR tests using the Anterior Nares Swab (shallow swab). Saliva testing is not currently available. To complete COVID testing, an anterior-nasal swab (a short swab no longer than a typical Q-Tip) is used to collect a sample from the inside of the front of the nose. Completion of the test is quick and easy (only a few seconds in each nostril).  Sample collection will be completed by the student and supervised by appropriately trained health care staff.
  • Ethylene Oxide, which is a gas that is classified as a carcinogen,  is used to sterilize nasal swabs and approximately 50% of medical devices. After using Ethylene Oxide to sterilize the swabs, the swabs are aerated to allow the ethylene oxide gas to dissipate. This process is approved by the FDA, which ensures that no harmful levels of residual traces of Ethylene Oxide remain after sterilization. More information can be found on the FDA website.

  • Positive Diagnosis- If a student is diagnosed with COVID-19 they should not participate in screening testing for 90 days from the date of diagnosis. Students should follow established procedures for returning to school after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

    Student-athletes who are not fully vaccinated, have recently recovered COVID-19, and are eligible to return to school/activities will be allowed to participate in athletic activities during the 90-day window with the expectation they will resume screening testing after the 90-day window closes.

More information about the student-athlete vaccine requirement. More information about student-athlete Covid-19 testing

Optional Testing for Students 

Weekly COVID-19 screening testing for students (excluding VHSL student-athletes) is optional.

Testing begins for elementary, middle, and high school students with parental consent early November.

Testing details: 

  • Consent- Parent/guardian consent is required for all students to participate in COVID-19 screening testing. Consent will be documented in the secure online registration portal and may be withdrawn at any time.

  • Confidentiality- Test results will be kept confidential by the vendor and made available to parents and guardians through the secure vendor portal. The vendor will provide student test results to FCPS if parent/guardian consent is provided for the disclosure.

  • Vendor- Student screening testing is provided by LTS.

  • Test Type- Student screening testing will be done with PCR tests.

    To complete COVID testing, an anterior-nasal swab (a short swab no longer than a typical Q-Tip) is used to collect a sample from the inside of the front of the nose. Completion of the test is quick and easy (only a few seconds in each nostril).  Sample collection will be completed by appropriately trained LTS health care staff.

    Ethylene Oxide, which is a gas that is classified as a carcinogen,  is used to sterilize nasal swabs and approximately 50% of medical devices. After using Ethylene Oxide to sterilize the swabs, the swabs are aerated to allow the ethylene oxide gas to dissipate. This process is approved by the FDA, which ensures that no harmful levels of residual traces of Ethylene Oxide remain after sterilization. More information can be found on the FDA website.

    In addition, the on-site testing clinics will provide diagnostic testing for any student who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 at the time the vendor is scheduled to be at the school that week for COVID testing. In these cases, the student will receive a rapid antigen test and a follow-up PCR test if the rapid test result is positive. The family will be contacted to come to pick up their student from the CARE room within one hour. 

  • Testing Pool- Following CDC guidance, FCPS will test 10% of each school’s unvaccinated student population whose parents/legal guardians have provided consent for services. Students will be randomly selected for testing each week.

    If a school has a low consent rate and 10% of students not-fully vaccinated do not have consent to be tested, those who do have consent may be tested every week.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that schools may consider testing a random sample of at least 10% of students who are not fully vaccinated or may conduct pooled testing for COVID-19. FCPS has developed our plan based on these recommendations.

    The CDC does not recommend including vaccinated students or staff as part of layered prevention strategies. However, fully vaccinated people who are close contacts should be tested 5-7 days after exposure.  

  • Testing and Transmission Rates- The CDC recommends screening testing as a layered prevention strategy for communities with moderate, substantial, or high transmission rates. If Fairfax County moves to “low transmission,” we would reconsider the screening testing.

  • “Test to Stay”- Current CDC guidance cautions against using “test to stay” strategies due to the likelihood of inadvertent exposure before a positive test result. If the CDC updates its guidance, FCPS will reconsider options for “test to stay” or similar strategies. 
  • Positive Diagnosis- If a student is diagnosed with COVID-19 they should not participate in screening testing for 90 days from the date of diagnosis. Students should follow established procedures for returning to school after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

More information about COVID-19 Screening Testing for Students, Information and Questions.

Do you have a question?

Contact your child’s school for more details on the testing process including dates, times, and locations.

Required Testing for Staff

All FCPS employees who have not provided documentation of being fully vaccinated will be tested weekly. For more details about staff screening testing, including site schedules and how to sign up for appointments, visit the Employee Hub.

Testing details include the following: 

  • Staff who are not fully vaccinated are required to participate in COVID-19 testing weekly at FCPS testing sites.
  • Employees will receive the Rapid Antigen Test. PCR tests will be provided for any positive rapid tests as a second layer of confirmation. 
  • Testing for contracted employees begins during the week of November 1.
  • Testing for hourly employees currently working begins during the week of November 15.

Staff Testing Sites

FCPS testing sites are available Monday through Saturday with variable hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations: Sideburn Center, South County Secondary School, Gatehouse Center, Stonecroft Center, Lewis High School, Mount Vernon High School, South Lakes High School, McLean High School, and Holmes Middle School.

Staff must be tested at a staff-designated testing site. Tests received at community clinics, at home, doctor’s offices, etc. will not satisfy the testing requirement. Staff may not be tested at student-designated testing sites.